Smaller manufacturers learn to be better, faster, cheaper

4/22/2002 12:00 AM

Garland-based Garrett Metal Detectors was in an enviable position in early 2001, with big contracts to supply equipment to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. To fulfill those contracts and do it more efficiently, Garrett sought the advice of the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center.

The collaboration with TMAC last August had some impressive results, allowing Garrett to increase its production by 300% with no increase in staff. But it did something else as well: it equipped Garrett to deal with another, wholly unforeseen spike in its business after Sept. 11.

The Applied Manufacturing Conference at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, April 28-30, will help other manufacturers interested in seeking ways to become better, faster, and cheaper to learn about real-world applications of lean manufacturing techniques, change management, value chain integration, manufacturing cost containment, and other topics. The TMAC-sponsored conference is aimed at providing plant managers, industrial engineers, and production supervisors with knowledge they can use in their own operations.

The company doesn't have to be large. The product doesn't have to be high-tech. Virtually any manufacturing operation can reap bottom-line results by adopting new technologies and techniques or refining processes.

  • Houston's ROC Carbon, a maker of carbon graphite bushings, seals and bearings, gained ISO9000 quality certification, enabling the small company to pursue new business markets.
  • TORCO, a remanufacturer of torque converters for automatic transmissions, improved productivity at its Abilene facility by 50% after implementing a new facility layout.
  • Pedro's Tamales of Lubbock got assistance with meeting government food safety requirements and implementing process improvements that increased production by 40% and produced significant savings in raw materials costs.
  • Spinal Specialties, a San Antonio-based assembler of custom medical process kits, increased hourly production by 290 percent after adopting a new inventory system.
  • K-10 Enterprises, a Mission, Texas manufacturer of safety mirrors, has been able to trim inventory by 25% and still maintain just-in-time deliveries to customers as a result of refining their purchasing procedures.
TMAC exists to enhance the competitive position of the state's manufacturing sector. TMAC's staff of 55 specialists works statewide with small to medium-sized manufacturers, providing technical support and implementing best business practices. Typical areas covered include cost management, productivity improvements, environmental assistance, software systems selection and application, and e-commerce issues.

Since its inception in 1995, TMAC has served more than 2,400 Texas manufacturing firms from its 15 locations across the state. Collectively, these companies have reported direct impacts of nearly $221 million in sales, over $35 million in cost savings/cost avoidance on materials, labor, inventory and equipment, and $67 million in new capital investments. TMAC customers report creating or retaining nearly 2,000 jobs for Texans.

TMAC is an affiliate of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which provides Federal funding. As a result, TMAC has a public mission to support smaller companies that otherwise would not have access to objective advice and technical assistance. Its field staff cover rural and border regions of the state as well as the metropolitan areas.

Seven partner institutions deliver TMAC services statewide: the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), part of The Texas A&M University System; The University of Texas at Arlington; The University of Texas at El Paso; The University of Houston; Southwest Research Institute; Texas Tech University; and The University of Texas – Pan American.

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